Coachella 2016 was fun. I did it very similar to how I did it last year. Find last year’s blog here. Anyway- you are going to have to trust my words, because, well- I will admit I did not do the greatest job documenting it with my camera. When you are all tangled up in the Coachellaness that lasts a grand total of 6 days (two weekends), you forget a lot of things. This happens a lot on shoots, especially live/lifestyle/portrait shoots where I can shoot anything I want. That is why I love having a second shooter, to capture the images I miss and to help snag some of me working. But, for jobs like this – it just wouldn’t make sense. So trusting my words is the route we will be going.
Coachella is nice. I like it because everyone can watch and watch comfortably. People just love music, and regardless of their level of fame, they just want to watch it. Coachella is quite celebrity dense and I believe it’s because it is probably one of the only fests where they can watch music from an area where they won’t be bombarded with selfie requests. I don’t know if it’s necessary, but it works and people seem to be liking it, so more power to them. There are a few minor hardships to Coachella that are easy enough to tackle.
Dust, it’s very dusty. So everyone wears bandanas, especially if you ride on the golf carts you have to wear one. Otherwise, you wake up the next day and feel like (what I imagine it feels like) you have smoked a pack of cigs. To protect your eyes from dust, you wear sunglasses, very straight forward but I never wear sunglasses and I started just because of this festival. Most fests have the risk of rain which really makes things difficult for photographers! I mean, no one really wants to get soaking wet, and shooting in the rain can be fun, but mostly it is not.
I started off in LA with Jack. We were supposed to leave with our group at 6 a.m. however everyone slept until 10 a.m. or something so we met up at 8 a.m., got breakfast, and headed down early on our own. He took me to his local breakfast spot. I didn’t know how local he was until I was waiting for him there for 15 minutes and I placed his order for him.
The waitress said, “Oooh I think I know who your friend is, with the hair, right?” I said, “Yes that’s him.” His order was weird enough that I would probably remember him if he came to my restaurant and ordered it as well. I don’t have a restaurant.
It was nice to hang out with Jack. I mean, I have toured with him a lot when I work for All Time Low, but never really spent quality time with the dude. It can be hard for me to hang out with people because I don’t drink. Well, it is not hard for me- I think it is just hard for them. Most people like to go out and get some drinks, and I like to do that as well, I just get ones without alcohol. But something about not having a drink just puts people off. More on this later, I am still doing my research.
I think I get along with him so well because he likes to talk. I have hung out with people who don’t like to talk and it is hard for me to connect. It makes me nervous. We got to the festival, picked up our passes, snagged some In-N-Out and then headed to our house.
Passes at festivals. Another thing I think Coachella does best. They have their pass pick up off-site, it is well-run and well-staffed, and there is ample parking for everyone. it opens at 7 am and closes at 2 am, so regardless of your schedule – you can usually find a time to pick them up.
For Coachella, I had to have a…
Photo Pass for the camera – gets camera into the photo pit for first three songs
Photo pass for the wrist – get me into the photo pit for first three songs
Artist Guest pass – gets me access to all areas accept basically on stage (which is somewhere I don’t need to be anyway)
Safari pass – access to private campground and special carts (we spoke about this earlier)
Photo pits were very empty, they did a good job of slimming down press to only necessary people
So Coachella was long. My day kind of went something like getting to the fest, shoot some bands, hang out with friends, shoot some more bands and eventually go back to our home. The first night I decided to stay late cause I wanted to see my friend Jared. He was working for a So What Not at a small stage called the Do Lab.
I made my way over by the end of the night and hung out with him for a bit. There was a guy doing long exposure portraits and his passion for it made me laugh a little. I respect how much time and effort he put into it but watching him do it was very funny.
He had a selection of light-emitting objects hanging from his waist. So he would remote trigger his camera, grab a light and wave it around his subjects head. By the end of the 20-second exposure, they would be very interestingly illuminated their face and surround areas.
He had a certain swagger, a sway, to his delivery that was awesome. He was casting a spell on his subject, I loved it. He offered me a photo and I declined. I shouldn’t have, but I was exhausted from the long day of work. After I hung out with Jared I had to find my way home. I was going to draw a map to explain this, but instead, I just found a nice one on the internet.
So you can see the grounds in the middle, it says Coachella. It’s massive… and yet at the same time, relative to how big the grounds are – it’s tiny. Getting home was a mess. You see, if I would have left early I get to basically leave from Monroe Street very easily. I just get picked up from the Safari zone and drive home. But everyone had left so walking it was. I could have taken an Uber but I knew that would just be a few hours of waiting and then another hour in a car just to go a few miles. I started my trek at midnight.
I had this map but I just didn’t realize so many streets were closed to walking – this is the first night so I had a lot of learning to do. My house is about a mile from the bottom right of this map. So I walked to the bottom right only to be told I couldn’t walk there. Fair enough. So how do I exit? They said I would have to walk to the top right. It took forever, also – it was backtracking.
It was 12:30 am by now, dust everywhere, I was exhausted, had my gear and cameras on me, and I did not have a dust mask at this time. I basically made all the mistakes in one night. I started the walk because I didn’t really have a choice and eventually got to those VIP parking lots and cut across to the street.
I think I ended up walking in an area I shouldn’t have but at that point, I honestly didn’t care. It was such a mess of backed up traffic, barely dressed drunks and everyone was just trying to get home. At least I didn’t make the mistake of leaving my cell phone external battery at home – then I would have really been in trouble. I ended up getting back to our place at around 1:30 am and I checked my phone. It told me I had walked 4 miles since midnight. Haha, amazing. The hot tub was amazing that night.
I also hot tub in the AM while reading.
I don’t really get invited to parties. I am not very well integrated into the social scene of these things. I just know a few people, hang out, do my job and relax. I keep it pretty simple and I don’t really go to many parties because well… I just don’t know anyone. But if the people I am with are going, I’ll go along. It can’t hurt, worst-case scenario – I people watch and chill.
I never really bring my camera to parties anymore because it kind of… it removes me from enjoying the event. So I started bringing these dispensable cameras. They aren’t as threatening – if I take your picture it’s not gonna be online for at least a week, and it doesn’t seem so invasive, more for personal purposes. So that is what I did.
We were going to a party called the Neon Carnival, it took place about an hour from our house, so we filled up one of the SUV’s and headed over. The car was packed so I happily took the trunk cause well… I would rather lay down then be crammed between a few folks. So luxurious way back it was for me. Neon Carnival was 5 rides, a bunch of carnival games, a DJ dance area, and some drink serving areas. It all took place in and around an airport hangar. I didn’t know much about and I didn’t learn that much that night either.
We arrived at 2:00 am or so and a lot of things had closed. But the rides hadn’t! We walked around for a bit, and then eventually paid someone running a ride to let us in the exit so we didn’t have to wait in line. Works for me. I went on the ride with Jack. It was a Ferris wheel on another Ferris wheel that spun rather quickly. I don’t really know how to explain it any better. It went in 2 circles simultaneously. I loved it. Here is a short video from it. Jack didn’t love it. But it was really fun. After that we left, went home, and I finished my night off with some more hot tub. I still have to get my photos from my disposable developed.
Sometimes stuff works out at festivals. Sometimes it doesn’t. It is hard to know where you have to be, and when you have to be there. Coachella was nice enough to just limit to photographers for the first three songs on the main stages – then the other 3 stages, you could shoot whenever you wanted to. I preferred this because a lot of special guests don’t come on until the middle or end of a performer’s set. I didn’t know when people would have special guests. I managed to catch a few just by luck, but also missed a lot as well.
I missed Kendrick Lamar with KZA, but I did get her hugging another guest, however, I am not quite sure who he is.
G-Eazy & Lil’ Wayne
Gary Clark Jr.
Matt and Kim
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
Run the Jewels
The Last Shadow Puppets
Years and Years
Randoms…. mostly of Jack cause he is good to hang out with
I hope you enjoyed the photographs. I had a blast shooting them. Thanks, Coachella and Goldenvoice for creating such an amazing fest atmosphere.
P.S. Best lunch talks I’ve had in a long time, thanks, fellow photog friends.